A humorous take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic mysteries featuring Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. (from IMDB)
Different styles of comedy are always an acquired taste. However, in many cases, dumb is just dumb, and unfunny is truly unfunny, and sometimes they come together in a comedy so poorly executed that it becomes unanimously panned by critics and moviegoers alike. Last Christmas’s Holmes & Watson is one of those comedies that was largely met with poor reviews and, supposedly, even an unusual number of theater walkouts. The film reunited Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly for a third time, but, sadly, the third time was most definitely not the charm.
Actually, it kind of seems natural for a pair of characters like Sherlock Holmes and John Watson to get lampooned. These characters are arguably more popular now than ever, and we’ve had more movies and TV shows about them in the past 10 years its seemed. However, turning the roles over to Ferrell and Reilly might not seem like an obvious match, and sadly, the movie proves this point in nearly every scene. While I was watching it, I was trying to figure out just what about this movie doesn’t quite work. For one, the pacing of the comedy is slow and feels largely like outtakes instead of actual scenes. Also, the plot is as thin as it can get, and the story doesn’t do much to support the comedy or its characters. And watching 49 minutes of deleted scenes on the Blu-Ray disc for the film only proves that there was ample additional footage and plot beats but little of it actually added to the film (I think only one sequence would have been kind of fun to have kept in, but most of it just felt like filler). A good director and editor know when to end a scene or cut a joke that is going on too long or isn’t working. A good example of a long gag that got better as it went on, was when Jim Carrey’s Bruce Nolan uses his divine powers to make Steve Carell’s Evan Baxter say and do crazy things while live on a news broadcast in Bruce Almighty. Not only did Carell steal the scene, but it’s a role that no doubt helped him become a comedic leading man. It’s one of the scenes that that film is remembered for. Scenes drag on and on in Holmes & Watson that don’t really work. And the whole movie feels like it’s leading up to bigger gags, bigger laughs and bigger set pieces, but in the end, just feels like an overlong SNL sketch that just isn’t memorable. That isn’t to say the whole film is a loss, but it just sorely — and consistently — lacks.
A movie like Anchorman is most memorable because of its ensemble cast, silly premises and funny jokes–even though that film was hit and miss, too. Holmes & Watson resorts to a similar crude comedic approach, but it feels more like two friends riffing for self-entertainment than calculated humor or genuine laughs. Some of the more fun jokes come when they’re spoofing elements of the Robert Downey Jr. version of Sherlock Holmes. His calculated planning of a scenario, with visual details aiding in his hatching a scheme or deduction, are executed well, even if the gag itself is only moderately amusing. And Watson’s confusion over Sherlock applying a simple mustache as a disguise is so silly and ridiculous that it’s pretty funny. But Sherlock’s frequent dismissal of Watson’s skills felt so unoriginal, as it just kept reminding me of when VeggieTales spoofed the same idea in their episode Sheerluck Holmes. It seemed old hat.
As much as I like Will Ferrell, he’s always seemed hit and miss — especially during his days on SNL. I’ve always preferred him playing somewhat innocent or clueless characters (like in Elf), than his more arrogant or jerky characters (Talladega Nights, Blades of Glory), and Holmes kind of falls somewhere in between. Part of the film’s problem may also be in that the comedy team tries to utilize some of the same shtick they’ve used for years in other films. It may have worked – to varying degrees – in other settings or with larger casts, but here it just doesn’t (or maybe the material itself just isn’t as strong). The plot seems to be frequently interrupted by rants and tangents that don’t serve the story and aren’t funny, like when the pair drunkenly try to send a romantic telegram (like one might leave a drunken voicemail), or decide to use cocaine while playing out in a field. It’s stuff that might sound funny on paper, but doesn’t translate well on film. (Not to mention an anti-Trump rant that just comes across as angry and bitter than clever or funny.)
The content of the film is what one might expect from a Ferrell & Reilly vehicle. Watson uses the “F” word once towards the end of the film, and there’s quite a bit of a variety of other profanity and blasphemy, albeit most of it is sexual references (including a running gag that Mrs. Hudson messes around with famous older men). There is some violence, although most of it is comedic, and some bizarre sensual moments (like a spoof on the clay pot scene from Ghost where Watson and a female doctor rub cake all over a dead body… yeah, it’s as weird and dumb as it sounds).
While I will say it’s not nearly as unwatchable as I’ve heard it described as, Holmes & Watson is still pretty bad, and it’s a shame, too, because they clearly put the effort into trying to make a decent spoof (the sets are pretty great at least). It does have its moments (including a well-placed cameo or two), but its jokes remain relatively predictable with a level of stupidity that never reaches the point of being “so bad, it’s good.” If you miss out on Holmes & Watson, you won’t really be missing much at all.
– John DiBiase (reviewed: 4/9/19)
Blu-Ray Special Features Review
Holmes & Watson is available on Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital, DVD, and through the usual digital providers. Along with the feature film, the Blu-Ray disc includes the following extras:Line-o-Rama (5:35) – These are alternate takes from what’s in the finished film. There are lots of crude alternate jokes from the guys just making stuff up off the cuff. (1 “d*mn,” 3 “d*ck”)
Will & John: Together Again (5:09) is about the pair reuniting for a third time after Talladega Nights and Step Brothers. It focuses on their chemistry together while showing outtakes. (1 “Oh my G-d”)
Seriously Absurd: The Cast (8:27) is about the cast assembled for this film, and how the team just wanted to do something different with Sherlock Holmes. We see some neat table read footage and plenty of B roll. The actors talk about each other and what it was like getting to work with one another. (1 “S” word)
Mrs. Hudson’s Men (1:12) – In the film, it was a running gag that Mrs. Hudson slept around with many men. It wasn’t made very clear, but these men were all historical celebrities. Here, the actors are in character as Sigmund Freud, Houdini, Charlie Chaplin, Einstein, and Mark Twain, and they all briefly talk to the camera.
Deleted & Extended Scenes (49:38) – There are 18 deleted or extended scenes, viewable separately or with via a Play All option. They total up half the length of the actual movie and feature a bunch of different additional storylines. The first scene shows Sherlock forgetting his hat and making Watson go back inside to get it, despite the bees having escaped. Sherlock then runs into a man in the street and tells him his wife cheated on him. In the next scene, the “street urchins” stop and talk to Holmes and Watson. Next, we see Mrs. Hudson walking out of Watson’s room with Mark Twain. The fourth scene is a long carriage ride where Watson tries talking to Holmes, but he falls asleep with his eyes open. He then keeps falling asleep as Watson talks to him. Next, Holmes imagines dating Millie in a couple quick fantastical shots. The sixth sequence is more of them in a carriage ride discussing Grace as a doctor, and whether or not she could actually be interested in Watson. Next, we see more of Grace and John’s bizarre sensual autopsy, mixed with more of Millie and Sherlock’s awkward flirting. They show more of the actual autopsy, with the pair’s bloody hands as they pull bloody pearls and a heart out of the body (we don’t see the body, but they focus in on the bloody objects). The eighth scene is yet another carriage ride as Sherlock eats a large egg and then chicken beaks. They argue over how he treats John. (1 “G-d”) The ninth scene is an alternate take of Sherlock making Watson a “feces merchant” (which is interesting because the finished film has profanity, but this scene does not). Next, we see them drunk and Sherlock asks Watson how to kiss (Millie). Watson says for them to make their mouths like buttholes and smush them together. It then becomes a bit of an action sequence where they chase a one-armed man and Watson throws a grapple onto his car and gets dragged behind it. The car then explodes and the police join them to discuss who might be behind it. (1 “h*ll,” “1 “G-d) The eleventh scene is an extended version of Sherlock thinking Grace is involved. Hudson emerges from John’s bedroom handcuffed to Chaplin and Twain. (1 “G-d”) The next scene is another extended take of the same scene, but it focuses on the fact that Sherlock is covered in coal dust, with his hand prints all over things in their flat. We also find out he wrote a poem to Millie. The next scene shows the group getting onto a bus. They talk again about if the girls are accomplices. Then Sherlock talks to the street children. The next scene shows the kids bringing Sherlock a device that Sherlock then inspects while they’re standing in the field (it turns out to be some kind of sexual protection device for women). The fifteenth scene shows Sherlock devising a plan and to get through a crowd. He says “poppies,” giving Watson war flashbacks, sending him on a rampage through the crowd. We see flashbacks of Watson in the middle of a war as he goes through the crowd, punching, kicking, throwing and even shooting people. The pair then arrive at a science fair and go looking around. It continues on as they chase some guys to a hot air balloon and end up shooting their guns all over the place. (2 “d*mn,” 1 “b*stard”) The sixteenth scene is a mix of shots of Watson being whipped and tortured in prison while Sherlock wanders around a park in nothing but a robe. Then we see Sherlock back at home with leeches on in an attempt to feel better. Because it doesn’t work, he has Mrs. Hudson give him an enema. And then we see five guys leave the room she had just been in. Finally, scene seventeen is an additional scene of Watson tied up with Hudson’s celebrity “harem” present, and the last scene is an alternate showdown with Mrs. Hudson on the Titanic. (1 “d*mn,” 1 “G-d”).
– John DiBiase, (reviewed: 4/9/19)
Parental Guide: Content Summary
Sex/Nudity: Some little kids trick Sherlock into kissing a donkey’s butt when he thinks he’ll be kissing a girl he likes while blindfolded; When Holmes and Watson accuse a man of pleasuring himself, they use a series of double meanings, including “creams his own eclair,” “pours his own tea,” etc. Finally, Watson makes a jerking motion with his hand and everyone in court goes “Ohhhhh!”; A woman in court wears a dress revealing a lot of cleavage; Mrs. Hudson comes out of Watson’s room with a man who seems to have just zipped up his pants (meaning they were fooling around); A nearly naked man falls out of a cake dead; A comment is made about shaking hands with a prostitute; Sherlock comments that he finds Millie eating an onion arousing; Grace and Watson go to perform an autopsy on the dead man who still has cake all over his body. The two then rub their hands all over the man’s skin slowly and sensually as they begin falling for each other (it’s also kind of a spoof on the famous clay scene in Ghost); Watson dreams of playing strip poker with Grace. He strips down to his bare chest and suspenders. She strips down to a corset. As she goes to remove it, it turns to Sherlock who has no shirt and is wearing a hat (Watson wakes up screaming; After being poisoned, Watson lactates and we see his shirt wet around his nipples; A comment is made about the neighborhood being home to whores; As Watson and Sherlock pee in the street, Sherlock does his precision planning, this time of the pee stream and we see his genitals represented by an arrow with two circular curls at the bottom of it; Holmes and Watson, while very drunk, try sending a telegraph to Grace about Watson’s affections for her. He wants to ask what she’s wearing and then he unzips his pants and we hear the thump of his genitals hitting the counter (out of frame). He tells the man to telegraph it to her; There’s a woman at a boxing ring in a sexy corset outfit; Holmes and Watson call a man a wanker and tell him to not wank on them; Thinking they killed the queen by accident, they try to stuff her body into a trunk, and so Watson repeatedly hits her bottom with pelvic thrusts as she’s bent over the trunk; We see a photo of a cartoonish image you’d see at a carnival of a man and a mermaid with holes cut out for the faces of people to stick their faces through. In the cartoony image, the mermaid is topless with small shells over the nipples and the faces are Holmes and Watson; During a musical number, we see two different shots of women in corsets in bed with men. One of them is Mrs. Hudson with five men; A kid calls Sherlock a “wank;” Sherlock and Millie kiss passionately and he warns her that she might be pregnant from the kiss.
Vulgarity/Language: 1 “F” word, 9 “S” words, 1 “a” word, 4 “d*mn,” 1 “Oh my G-d,” 1 “My G-d,” 4 “G-d,” 1 “b*stard,” 1 “b*tch” written on a newspaper headline
Alcohol/Drugs: Young Sherlock points out that a little girl had been drinking; Sherlock takes “morning cocaine” off screen; We see a glass of alcohol at a crime scene; Sherlock asks where his opium is (but we don’t see it); Some people have champagne at party; Watson offers Grace heroin; We see people drinking in a pub. Sherlock and Watson decide to blend in and end up drinking a lot and getting very drunk; Some people are seen smoking in a gym and we see signs encouraging people to smoke for exercise; Watson and Sherlock suggest they could use cocaine and then we see them moments later acting totally fast and crazy; We see some people drinking in a saloon.
Blood/Gore: We see a small splatter of bloody bug guts on a pane of glass; Holmes sticks a knife into a cake and is surprised how thick it is. We see blood ooze out from the top and he thinks it’s raspberry filling. He touches it with his finger. They then hit the cake with an ax and a man in just his shorts falls out; We see blood on a sheet over a dead body; Sherlock then throws up violently into a bucket repeatedly.
Violence: We see some young kids picking on little Sherlock. They even take his pet turtle and throw him (we later see it survived); While trying to kill a fly, Sherlock and Watson slap each other. Sherlock then takes a mallet and smacks Watson in the face with it. They accidentally break the glass of their bee enclosure and the swarm them. Watson then jumps out the window to escape them; Watson fires a gun repeatedly in court, breaking things and accidentally shooting a couple people; Sherlock poisons Watson as an experiment and we see Watson go through various weird and somewhat violent reactions; We see a man stab another man in the shoulder on the street; We see little street kids boxing and fighting in a ring; Watson points a gun at a man; We see some gym related violence; Watson is challenged to a boxing duel with a very big guy. The guy in the ring punches a guy standing outside of it. He then throws Watson out of the ring. Sherlock steps in and imagines hitting and flipping the man and winning. His plan fails, but Watson jumps back into the ring and repeatedly hits the man with a chair; A man is stabbed in the back. Watson takes it out and throws it at a man running away. It hits him in the side and he soon dies; Watson accidentally clocks the queen in the face with their camera. They think she’s dead and so they try to shove her body into a trunk. They then repeatedly punch her trying to get her into it. Sherlock recommends cutting her up into small pieces to flush her down the toilet and tells Watson to get the bone saw. They raise the saw to her, but she wakes up in time; Sherlock hits Watson on the back of the head with a mallet; Watson pushes off cops trying to seize him; We see some dogs violently attacking a burlap sack; Millie and Grace shoot guns into the air while the “street urchins” kids attack the men in a street fight; We see Watson tied to a large gear; We see Sherlock and Watson working out scenarios in their minds and we see two large explosions in both cases; Watson throws people aside as he runs to retrieve a bomb. He then grabs it and throws it out a window. It lands in a small boat, blowing it up and presumably killing some people in it.